SHANKSVILLE – Every Wednesday, Paul Angert brings a trailer, tractor, push mower and a weed trimmer to the Flight 93 Memorial Chapel located just 5 miles southwest of the Flight 93 National Memorial.
The Davidsville native cuts the grass and maintains the area around the chapel that stands in honor of the 40 passengers and crew aboard Flight 93 who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001. He’s done so for 12 years.
He said it is the least he can do in order to preserve what once was an abandoned Lutheran church before the late Rev. Alphonse Mascherino turned it into a building that now holds numerous artifacts and remembrances.
“I knew Father Al very well, and I don’t want to see the chapel close,” Angert said. “I feel that if I can dedicate one full day a week to try to keep the chapel going, that’s what I want to do. I wake up at 5 o’clock in the morning, and I don’t leave here until dark. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done here to maintain the chapel and the grounds.”
On Saturday at 10:03 a.m., the time the plane crashed near Shanksville, the chapel held the 20th Anniversary Ceremony to commemorate the lives lost.
The event included a ringing of the Thunder Bell for each of the 40 heroes, the reading of a history of the chapel by volunteer Carol Love, and various music selections by special attendees Paul Ritchey, Danny Conner and North Star kids.
There was also a memorial service held by ABP Ramzi Musallam as well as guest speaker, Leanna Klotz Slater, who is a Somerset County native and longtime United Airlines pilot.
Connie Hay, the oldest and longest-tenured volunteer at the chapel, said it is important as ever to honor the fallen and noted how special the chapel, which is completely run off of donations, has become.
“We all should never forget,” said Hay, a Jennerstown resident. “We need to honor these heroes. Today is about them.
“For 20 years, it’s just been donations. That’s kind of neat. It’s the kindness of the people of the community and everywhere else. It just boggles your mind sometimes.”
Each passenger and crew member is commemorated in a private room in the back of the chapel where candles and full-page descriptions about their lives and personalities are displayed.
Around the outside of the room, though, are various artifacts that were donated by the heroes’ families and other items given to the chapel from people all over the world.
A crowd of more than 60 people gathered together inside the center room of the chapel to hear Slater speak about how the 9/11 tragedy changed her life after growing up roughly 10 minutes away from the site.
“It’s very, very important. It’s my honor,” Slater said about the opportunity to come back to her hometown and speak on the anniversary at the chapel. “It’s been a rough 20 years. I should have gone a long time ago, but it’s just been a very difficult situation. I go to the memorials and to the chapel here regularly, but it is an honor to come back to my hometown.”
The event drew numerous people who traditionally travel to Shanksville on the anniversary to pay their respects.
Cathi Rhodes, who was one of a few hundred that attended Shanksville’s 2002 Independence Day celebration where she participated in the town’s “living flag” demonstration, is one of those people.
Rhodes, of Greensburg, remembers how powerful it was whenever her group marching in the Independence Day parade broke out into song and the sheer emotion she felt from the moment.
It is one of many reasons why Rhodes, who is now a tour guide for the memorial, feels attached to the Flight 93 heroes.
“I just have a connection, somehow,” Rhodes said. “It’s important to me as an American, knowing these 40 people and what they did. It is just very touching to me.”
With as much support as the chapel receives, it will continue to stand as a tribute to all who lost everything on that fateful day.
Hay said she knows what 9/11 means in a much larger sense to Americans and how crucial it is to always remember.
“I think it’s just wonderful that everybody stops what they’re doing and takes a day to honor these men and women who were good Americans,” Hay said. “They did not care whether you were black or white. They didn’t care what religion you were, whether you were a man or woman, Democrat or Republican.
“They got together and they took action.”